Letter Re: The Proposed Citadel Community in Idaho

I read a post from one of the administrative members of the Citadel the other day.  He posted a request for “ways ahead” from group members (individuals who have paid the $208 application).  Specifically, he asked for suggestions on how to proceed given that they told the world they were looking for 3,000 acres on which to build their community.  Now, they are leaning towards a scaled down version to start; 200 acres.  While I don’t find that too cosmic a question to ask, I do think incompetence is showing.  On top of that, the forum they’ve created for paid applicants seems to push people in the direction only they want to go.  Example, they have a subforum named “Name Our City”.  In this, the administrator asks the masses what they’d like the area the Citadel lies on to be called if it is ever incorporated.  Members throw out their suggestions.  Then the administrator posts that they’re pretty much focused on calling it “the Citadel” (so why even have the subforum in the first place?).  This is just one example (and a trivial one) on how uncoordinated this project is.  They should’ve had all the details laid out prior to recruiting.  Right now, I get the heavy impression this is being run be a handful of dreamers that are stumbling through the process.  I don’t have high hopes that this is going to work
I gave them my $208 with serious reservations.  Why?  On the off chance that this is exactly what they say it is and everything works out.  Not really a hit on my finances, I had a slush fund and I’m way ahead of schedule with my preps.  I looked at it as a low risk, high pay off investment.  I didn’t have to give them any info, just the money (right now).  In the future, they will be conducting interviews–so they say.  I can back out at any time. (We’ll see if I get my money back). 
So, I wrote this to you because I trust you and you have the ear of many.  Please advise the masses as you see fit.  I’d request that if you post anything that I’ve wrote, you keep it anonymous please!  Keep your powder dry. – Mr. E.

JWR Replies: As I’ve mentioned before, I share some strong reservations about the Citadel community plan and the group’s leadership. (Namely, Mr. Kerodin.) Our friend Patrice Lewis, who lives in the same county, recently wrote a cogent summary, in her excellent Rural Revolution blog. Some of the comments that follow are thought provoking.

A fundamental flaw is that they plan to lease shares in a walled community, rather than sell clear title to individual lots. Without private land holdings by the individual members, this wouldn’t be much more than a hippie commune–albeit a heavily-armed hippie commune.

I know the region quite well. In fact, it is not far from where my first novel (Patriots) was set. The subdivision, zoning and permit requirements in Benewah County are favorable to development. (Much better than in adjoining Latah County, where there is a 40 acre minimum parcel size, for subdivision.) There are now permits required and a building code is enforced, but agricultural buildings are exempt.

Outside of the sprawling National Forest, the only large tracts of land around there (usually no more than 640 acre sections–see the checkerboard pattern of sections in the Forest Service maps) are mostly held by the big timber companies such as Potlatch.  The largest tracts and the most affordable (per acre) are mostly in high elevation country which have serious access problems in the winter and are pitiful, agriculturally.  (Again, because of the elevation, which means a short growing season.)

Generally, the big tracts of land don’t go on the market until after they’ve been logged.  Bit I must mention that these days, the loggers no longer do many clear cuts, and they have special cutting plans required near streams.

While I do recommend the lower-elevation portions of the region, I don’t think that the current Citadel plan has much chance of success. And as long as ex-felon Mr. Kerodin is in the leadership, I cannot endorse it.